Patrick M. Keefe

NAUAA Dwight Patterson (1934) Alumnus of the Year: BS Journalism, 1978

President Haeger presents Patrick Keefe (center, right) with the Patterson Award at Homecoming halftime 

Where credit is due

In today's media environment, good public relations and marketing can convince you that your grandfather's cologne is the cutting-edge scent of the future. But sometimes, the best examples of PR find a straightforward way to present an elegant truth. Patrick Keefe is a master of straight talk in troubled times. His nomination for Alumnus of the Year, which hails him as "the top public relations professional in the credit union world," includes no fewer than seven citations from leading industry officials. As VP of communications/media outreach for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Keefe must transmit a crystalline message to credit unions and their members, the public, Congress and its staffers, regulatory agencies, and news and trade media nationwide.

Keefe's greatest successes are invisible to the people they benefit the most. In 1998, Congress enacted critical legislation to protect credit unions and their members. The crux of the messaging that convinced them of this reality: "Credit Unions Look Out for the Little Guy," a campaign grounded in the concept that credit unions are genuinely different from other financial institutions because of their focus on the average American consumer. At the center of campaign leadership: the "calm manner, skillful negotiations, and above all, integrity" of Patrick Keefe.

Keefe kicked off his PR career at NAU under the tutelage of Ray Newton and Dick Bennett, resulting in a stint at the White Mountain Independent community newspapers. Later, his work for a trade association that paid his tuition resulted in an MS in information technology from Johns Hopkins. He repaid the industry in full by pioneering Internet communications, developing one of the first websites in the financial services trade industry and helping solve Y2K issues at credit unions throughout the U.S.

Keefe's efforts have been instrumental in keeping the industry's public image largely unscathed through the S&L bailout problems of the 1980s and, even more critically, during the more recent mega-bank bailouts. His programs demonstrated to the public that despite the economic woes of the banking industry, credit unions are stable and safe. Never seeking the limelight, he has volunteered for years as CUNA's liaison to a 10-mile run benefitting the Children's Miracle Network and raising more than $1 million annually.

For his fluency in the art of clear communication, all in the name of grassroots consumer protection and the nation's financial stability, the NAU Alumni Association is honored to salute Patrick Keefe with the Dwight Patterson Alumnus of the Year Award.